Advance Notice: Briefs

Peters sponsors PFAS provisions in defense bill

By: - May 31, 2019 3:17 pm
Gary Peters

U.S. Sen. Gary Peters | Andrew Roth

A provision to decrease the amount of toxic chemicals at military sites has been added to the National Defense Bill, at the insistence of U.S. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Bloomfield Twp.).

Peters in Oscoda
U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and Air Force Assistant Secretary John Henderson | Michael Gerstein

Peters’ office said last week that measures were added to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to stop the Department of Defense (DoD) from buying firefighting foam that contains a class of toxic substances known as PFAS, along with provisions that would aid computer modeling efforts and ease coordination between the Pentagon and state governments on cleanup efforts.

One such provision encourages the DoD to partner with states’ governors to test, monitor, and remove PFAS contamination that originated from military activities.

The NDAA is the annual bill that the U.S. Congress uses to set the DoD’s budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

Peters and other federal Michigan lawmakers have previously sponsored other legislation aimed at fighting such pollution.

Last month, Peters visited the northern Michigan town of Oscoda to meet with residents frustrated with the U.S. Air Force’s slow cleanup timeline, as the Michigan Advance reported. Although officials have known about the pollution for years, it may take at least another four years of study before the Air Force commits to a firm plan for its eventual removal.

Oscoda’s now-decommissioned Wurtsmith Air Force Base was contaminated by the routine use of firefighting foam that contained PFAS chemicals.

Michigan has the most sites known to be polluted with PFAS in the nation, according to the Washington, D.C.-based Environmental Working Group.

Both the EWG and the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) say that is likely because of the state’s aggressive testing program, rather than a sign that Michigan is more contaminated than other states.

Wurtsmith Air Museum
Wurtsmith Air Museum, near former the Air Force base from which PFAS has contaminated Oscoda | Michael Gerstein

“To address the PFAS crisis impacting families and communities across Michigan, we must take action,” Peters said in a statement. “I’m pleased that the national defense bill advancing to the full Senate includes my provision that aims to increase coordination between the Department of Defense and states on remediation efforts for contaminated PFAS sites.

“This bill builds on my efforts on PFAS with measures to prevent the Department of Defense from using firefighting foams with PFAS in the future,” he continued. “It also would make investments in advanced computer modeling so that the Pentagon can work to solve problems caused by exposure to PFAS.”

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Michael Gerstein
Michael Gerstein

Michael Gerstein is a former Advance reporter covering the Governor's office, criminal justice and the environment.